Washington D.C., March 31, 2023 – Marking International Day of Transgender Visibility, The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) highlights and recognizes that within the region political and social crises, including authoritarian regimes generate differential impacts on vulnerable groups of people. For trans people and people of diverse genders, the impact is even greater when considering factors like socioeconomic status, race, migratory status, and age.
LGBTI+ people, and specifically trans people, systematically suffer human rights violations in different aspects of their lives. Moreover, in authoritarian regimes or in complex political and social contexts, their situation is aggravated by legislative setbacks and legal gaps, and it is therefore more difficult to guarantee respect for and compliance with international human rights obligations. In addition, the level of impunity for hate crimes are increasing and violence and discrimination are often perpetrated by public officials.
In Brazil, during Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, there was an increase in hate speech against the LGBTI+ population, which specifically affected the trans population. The rise of the extreme right, linked to conservative religious groups, strengthened the anti-trans agenda which became institutionalized and gained space in official government speeches. The anti-rights fundamentalist groups that persecute and lie about gender diversity, calling it “gender ideology,” have constructed a violent discourse which targets trans people as enemies and prevents the construction of public policies aimed at improving the human rights of this population. “In addition, they attack rights that have been conquered, such as respect for social names and a self-declared gender in public and private establishments, as well as the use of the bathroom according to your gender,” explains Gab Van, Representative of the João W. Nery Transmasculina League.
In 2022, Brazil maintained its 14th consecutive year as the top of the ranking for murders of trans people. According to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (ANTRA), 131 trans people were murdered in Brazil in 2022 (130 trans women and 1 trans masculine person). At least 76 percent of the victims were black.
In Peru, the country is currently experiencing a serious institutional, political, and social crisis. After the attempted coup d’état against Congress by President Pedro Castillo in December 2022 and Dina Boluarte assuming presidency, various sectors of society are unaware of the government of Dina Boluarte and the Congress of the Republic. This has generated a series of nationwide protests causing 67 deaths, with 1,335 people injured, along with arbitrary arrests, arbitrary searches, and a series of human rights violations by the government, the police, and military forces. Within this context, the situation of the trans population worsened and was relegated, not to mention the increase of impunity for hate crimes. In the first month and a half alone of this year, eight murders of trans women were reported, which were classified as violent deaths. “As long as there is no gender identity law, this system will continue to oppress us because it does not recognize us as women and we cannot exercise full and responsible citizenship,” said Alejandra Fang, member of Trans Feminist Organization for the Human Rights of Trans People.
To date, there is no official record of violence and hate crimes against trans and gender-diverse people. The little information known so far is obtained through the media and trans civil society organizations who make great efforts for such documentation. Similarly, political studies, analyses, and reports on human rights violations make no reference to the situation, and the differentiated impact on the current institutional crisis, and the lives of trans and gender diverse people.
In the case of Nicaragua, the context of socio-political and human rights crises, where censorship and impunity prevail for the serious violations and abuses of human rights are perpetrated by the State and parastatal agents, there is no access to official figures on cases of violence against trans people; however, according to testimonies gathered by the Expert Group on Human Rights on Nicaragua (GHREN), feminist leaders, women-led organizations, and groups (in all its diversity) have collectively been targets of attack.
The authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, held at least 4 trans women incarcerated in penitentiaries for men, denying them access to hormonal therapy and exposing them to differentiated risks based on their gender. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in Opinion 12/2021, ruled on the case of a trans activist who was arbitrarily arrested on the second anniversary of the socio-political crisis, forced to be held in a men’s penitentiary and sentenced for 13 years and 2 months for “aggravated kidnapping” and “aggravated obstruction of duty.” “His status as a trans person was ignored as a form of humiliation against him,” concluded the Working Group. Finally, the activist was released in 2021, but the State never reported on the lifting of the charges against her, nor on the guarantees of reparation for the damages committed.
Similarly in Cuba, the arrest of Brenda Díaz, a 28-year-old trans woman who remains incarcerated in a male prison, reveals the serious situation faced by people with diverse gender identities on the Island. She was arrested for participating in the peaceful marches in July 2021 because, according to Cuban authorities, she “dressed as a woman to infiltrate” public demonstrations. Victims face all kinds of discrimination and violence within this prison, Brenda is serving a 14-year prison sentence.
In Cuba, people with diverse gender identities can change the gender marker on official identity documents only if the applicant has undergone gender affirmation surgery, according to the database of the organization Ilga Mundo. ILGA World also compiles other measures adopted by the Cuban government to protect this population, but according to trans people, they are not applied and remain a commitment on paper only. In the same way, women’s organizations affirm that a gender law against gender violence is needed to prevent gender-based violence.
In the case of Colombia, within the framework of the 2019-2020 National Strike, Colombia Diversa has documented that the majority of the victims of police violence, threats and homicides were trans women. According to Caribe Afirmativo, as of 2019 most of the victims in 2020 were registered in Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, and Bogotá. In Valle del Cauca, for example, threats and repression by the police and impediments to demonstrations in public spaces were reported. In addition, the Minister of Defense at the time, Diego Molano, criminalized the social leaders of LGBTI+ people in Cauca, establishing them as members of criminal organizations and offering a million-dollar reward to anyone who provided information about them.
Bicky Bohorquez, member of Somos Identidad, spoke about the importance of the personal security of trans people in demonstrations. “To promote the participation and visibility of trans people in spaces of social vindication, such as social protest, we must take into account that these must be safe spaces for us as trans people. Strategies such as listening and learning from our experiences, awareness, and education cannot be left out.”
Trans people in the region are exposed to more dangerous and vulnerable situations when their countries are in critical political and social contexts. Not only because their living conditions become more acute, but because their participation as political actors can place their physical and mental integrity at risk, especially in protest and emergency situations.
In view of these matters, Race and Equality wishes to submit recommendations to the States, many of which were presented by the IACHR in the Report on Trans and Gender Diverse Persons and their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (2020):
- Adopt gender identity laws that recognize the rights of trans and gender diverse people to rectify their name and sex and or gender component on their birth certificates, identity documents, and other legal documents. This is based on Advisory Opinion 24/2017 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
- Eliminate any form of criminalization in laws and public policies, direct or indirect, of the conduct of people in the exercise of their gender identity or expression.
- Include protections against discrimination based on gender identity in public and private spheres.
- Develop and implement policies and programs to promote respect for the rights of trans and gender diverse people and their acceptance and social inclusion. These must be comprehensive, transversal, and based on the human rights approach, including the gender perspective.
- Develop and implement information campaigns to raise awareness in public and private media about bodily and sexual diversity and the gender approach.
- Promote information campaigns for trans and gender diverse people about their human rights and existing protection mechanisms.
 ANTRA (2022). Expediente Asesinatos y violencia contra travestis y transexuales brasileños. Disponible en https://antrabrasil.files.wordpress.com/2023/01/dossieantra2023.pdf
 Defensoría del Pueblo (2023) Crisis Política y Protesta Social. Reporte Diario. Disponible en https://www.defensoria.gob.pe/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/ReporteDiario2332023_17-horas.pdf
 Presentes (2023). Perú: Por primera vez miles de personas marcharon en Lima contra los transfemicidios. Disponible en https://agenciapresentes.org/2023/02/23/peru-por-primera-vez-miles-de-personas-marcharon-en-lima-contra-los-crimenes-de-transodio/
 Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas (2023). Conclusiones detalladas del Grupo de Expertos en Derechos Humanos sobre Nicaragua. Disponible en https://informenicaragua.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/A_HRC_52_CRP5_Spanish.pdf
 Race and Equality (2022). Cuatro historias de personas detenidas por reclamar cambios en Cuba. Disponible en http://oldrace.wp/es/cuba-es/cuatro-historias-de-personas-detenidas-por-reclamar-cambios-en-cuba/
 Ilga Mundo database: https://database.ilga.org/cuba-lgbti-es
 Colombia Diversa (2020). 2020, el año con la cifra más alta de violencia policial, asesinatos y amenazas contra personas LGBT. Disponible em https://colombiadiversa.org/blogs/2020-el-ano-con-la-cifra-mas-alta-de-violencia-policial-asesinatos-y-amenazas-contra-personas-lgbt/
Caribe Afirmativo (2021). Violencias contra personas LGBT a 20 días de Paro Nacional. Disponible en https://caribeafirmativo.lgbt/violencias-contra-personas-lgbt-a-20-dias-de-paro-nacional/